I am a huge fan of BuildingGreen, but have not given a lot of coverage of their Green Product of the Year Awards. They are, to put it bluntly, not sexy, like watching Eoncote Ceramic paint dry. But I have been doing our readers a disservice, as I learned while watching Alex Wilson of BuildingGreen present this year's picks. They are carefully thought out and researched, are green in every sense of the word.
Alex first presents the "business as usual" in the business. For instance, most carpeting has perfluorinated compounds to make them stain resistant, chemicals which are building up in our bodies and is found even in breast milk. Nobody really knows yet what they are doing to us, but there are health and environmental concerns. It has been just about impossible to find commercial carpeting without it.
InterfaceFLOR gets the nod from Alex and products editor Brent Erlich for offering carpet tiles without PFCs. Not sexy, but important.
I always thought that vinyl flooring was made from...vinyl. In fact, the main ingredient is limestone, and the PVC acts as a binder to hold it all together. In commercial situations it is usually stripped of wax with solvents, and is a major contributor to VOCs in indoor air.
Lifeline PVC-free resilient flooring from Upofloor OY (imported by Altro Floors) is made for heavy-traffic commercial spaces yet contains no PVC, plasticizers, phthalates, halogens, or heavy metals. Unlike most commercial resilient flooring, Upofloor has a durable wear layer that minimizes the need for maintenance, making it an excellent choice for hospitals, schools, and other buildings where indoor environmental quality is a high priority.
Here is that paint drying again; It's Eoncote,
a truly revolutionary commercial and industrial coating. The water-borne coating has two parts--phosphoric acid and magnesium hydroxide ("milk of magnesia")--that are mixed in the spray valve during installation and set almost immediately. Available in many colors, EonCoat contains no VOCs and no hazardous air pollutants and has zero flame spread--without the use of a flame retardant.
It is a ceramic paint, but Alex explains that we shouldn't hold that against it; he gives a simple explanation of why ceramic paints don't actually work as insulation in terrestrial situations where the temperature differences are less than a thousand degrees. (I have stepped into this mess with Ceramic Paint-On Insulation: Does It Work?)
One choice that surprised me was the AllSun Trackers from AllEarth Renewables. These units
combine photovoltaic collectors, inverters, and controls with a ground-mounted tracker that uses GPS to follow the sun precisely as it moves across the sky in order to maximize the amount of light hitting the panels. Upon "waking" in the morning, they tilt to the north to dump accumulated snow, and in high wind they move to a "stow" position parallel with the ground to minimize wind resistance.
Up here in Ontario, Canada, the government offers a very high feed-in tariff; last week I was driving through rural Ontario and saw versions of these units on just about every farm I passed. They all have wind protection and a cleaning position to dump snow and for cleaning. (example here)
Other winners include:
CI-Girt Rainscreen System from Knight Wall Systems, a faster and easier rain screen commercial wall system;
Aqua2use Graywater System from Water Wise Group, Inc. A gray-water filter and pump system;
Cypress Envirosystems Analog-to-Digital Wireless Thermostat and Other Controls A clever retrofit digital thermostat for analog controls;
Ritter XL Solar Thermal System from Regasol USA an evacuated tube hot water system;
Mitsubishi Electric's Ductless Heat Pumps and Variable Refrigerant Flow Systems with Tenant Submetering Because Alex, like me, thinks ground source heat pumps are overrated and this is a cheaper, faster and effective alternative; see Are Ground Source Heat Pumps (AKA Geothermal Systems) A Good Choice?
And last but not least, EnduraLEDs from Philips Lighting
engineered as a replacement for the 60-watt incandescent light bulb and is the first such LED bulb to be Energy Star-qualified. The bulb has a unique yellow appearance when turned off but provides a warm, white light when turned on; its color temperature is comparable to that of a 60-watt incandescent. This bulb is currently available in a 12.5-watt version with a color rendering index (CRI) of 80, but Philips plans to introduce a 10-watt version with a CRI of 90 in 2012.
Mike reviewed this here: Philips AmbientLED 12.5 Watts LED Lightbulb (Product Review)
I have to admit that after watching Alex explain his choices, and reading Paula Melton's descriptions here, that rain screens and thermostats can indeed be sexy and exciting after all.
Actually, we did cover last year's choices, but had to find cute pictures of happy birds:
Bird-Friendly Glass Among BuildingGreen's Top 10 of the Year